Tesla faces competition for customers, subsidies

Mon May 4, 2015 6:02am EDT
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By Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Tesla Motors Inc's plan to generate new revenue by repackaging electric car batteries as home and business power storage systems faces stiff competition for both customers and the government subsidies that are critical to the market’s growth.

At the unveiling of its suite of storage battery systems on Thursday, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said at a company event near Los Angeles the new Tesla Energy was far ahead of its competition in offering an integrated system for generating solar power and storing it on-site.

"We're just not aware of who would even really be second, honestly," Musk said.

Several analysts see a multi-billion dollar market in its infancy as power companies, businesses and home owners, partly reacting to government incentives, buy systems that stabilize the grid. They provide backup for green energy systems which otherwise could be threatened when clouds move over a solar field or the wind died on a windmill farm.

And Musk himself is a powerful salesman backed by an attractive "green" brand.

On the contrary, Tesla is far from the only company offering such systems, and industry insiders say the cost of a Tesla system, which starts at $3,000 for a home storage battery pack, is in line with the rest of the market.

Established and deep-pocketed energy and technology players like Samsung SDI Co Ltd, LG Chem Ltd and Saft Groupe SA are just a few of the names marketing products similar to Tesla's - small batteries to pair with solar panels at homes and businesses and much larger ones to help utilities shore up power grid reliability.

An array of small companies are also making waves in the field. Stem, which pairs batteries with software systems for businesses and is backed by Total and General Electric Co, last year landed a major contract with California utility Southern California Edison.   Continued...

Signage is displayed outside of Tesla Motors before the Tesla Energy Powerwall Home Battery event in Hawthorne, California April 30, 2015. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon